Monday, July 25, 2011

Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors

Dolly Parton's actual Coat of Many Colors with her original handwritten lyrics
I'm doing a little traveling across Tennessee at the moment and thought I'd share a little piece of my travels with my readers. The family and I were doing the theme park thing at Dollywood this last week and to pass some time when a thunderstorm interrupted the rollercoasters, took a detour into Dolly's Chasing Rainbows Museum. It was there when I saw the actual garment that prompted Dolly's famous song, "Coat of Many Colors." I for one, didn't know it still existed. 

When Dolly Parton was a child, her parents couldn't afford to buy her a coat for winter. Her mother was given a box of rags, and from it, she sewed together a coat for Dolly. As she did so, she told her daughter the story of Joseph from the Bible and his coat of many colors and how Abraham gave a coat of many colors to his favorite son, Joseph.Dolly later recorded that she couldn't wait to wear her coat of many colors, but when she did, her classmates at school made fun of her for being poor.

From the time she was a little girl growing up in Locust Ridge, Tennessee to a dirt-poor family with 12 children, Dolly has kept mementos and collected memorabilia from all aspects of her life. As her star has risen, so has her collection. Today, it fills a museum.
In addition to the glamour memorabilia-the Grammies, the gowns from all her movies, the scripts, posters, guitars, etc.-Dolly has also collected evidence of her humble beginnings. The medical bag belonging to the doctor who delivered her, Dr. Robert F. Thomas, is on display. Dr. Thomas was paid a sack of corn for his service by Dolly's parents, Lee and Avie Lee Parton. The sack of cornmeal is one of the few things you won't find in the museum.

Another prized possession from her childhood in the museum has its own glass case-the Coat of Many Colors. This coat made of rags holds not only a bittersweet memory for Dolly, but it also resulted in one of her most touching songs. In the background behind the case is a wall-sized photo of children pointing and laughing. Dolly later translated that experience into a hit song and a children's book of the same name.

To this day, Dolly writes songs nearly every day. Over the years, she wrote songs on whatever was at hand when inspiration struck-on the backs of envelopes, scraps of paper, receipts and even the top of a shoebox. Many of these are in the museum, including the lyrics to "Coat of Many Colors" and "Light of a Clear Blue Morning". The largest collection is in a case holding the lyrics to more than a dozen songs.

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